Gregory of Sinai

Greek Christian saint

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346) was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece. He is known for his role in developing the tradition of hesychasm at Mount Athos, and also for founding Paroria Monastery in Bulgaria. Some of his writings are also included in the Philokalia.

His disciples included Nicodemus of Tismana, Athanasius the Meteorite, and Callistus I of Constantinople.




Palmer, G. E. H.; Ware, Kallistos; Sherrard, Philip (1999). The Philokalia: The Complete Text. Vol. 4. Faber and Faber.
  • As just remarked, there are two main forms of ecstatic longing for God:
one within the heart
and the other an enravishment taking one beyond oneself.
The first pertains to those who are still in the process of achieving illumination,
the second to those perfected in love.
Both, acting on the intellect, transport it beyond the sense-world.
Such longing for the divine is truly a spiritual intoxication, impelling natural thoughts towards higher states and detaching the senses from their involvement with visible things.
  • #59, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 222.
  • The source and ground of our distractive thoughts is the fragmented state of our memory. The memory was originally simple and one-pointed, but as a result of the fall its natural powers have been perverted: it has lost its recollectedness in God and has become compound instead of simple, diversified instead of onepointed.
  • #60, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 222.
  • We recover the original state of our memory by restoring it to its primal simplicity, when it will no longer act as a source of evil and destructive thoughts. For Adam's disobedience has not only deformed into a weapon of evil the soul's simple memory of what is good; it has also corrupted all its powers and quenched its natural appetite for virtue. The memory is restored above all by constant mindfulness of God consolidated through prayer, for this spiritually elevates the memory from a natural to a supranatural state.
  • #61, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 223.
  • He who practises hesychasm must acquire the following five virtues, as a foundation on which to build: silence, self-control, vigilance, humility and patience.
Then there are three practices blessed by God: psalmody, prayer and reading – and handiwork for those weak in body. These virtues which we have listed not only embrace all the rest but also consolidate each other.
From early morning the hesychast must devote himself to the remembrance of God through prayer and stillness of heart,
praying diligently in the first hour,
reading in the second,
chanting psalms in the third,
praying in the fourth,
reading in the fifth,
chanting psalms in the sixth,
praying in the seventh,
reading in the eighth,
chanting psalms in the ninth,
eating in the tenth,
sleeping in the eleventh,
if need be, and reciting vespers in the twelfth hour.
Thus fruitfully spending the course of the day he gains God's blessings.
  • #99, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 233.
  • #104, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 235.
  • Noetic prayer is an activity initiated by the cleansing power of the Spirit and the mystical rites celebrated by the intellect.
Similarly, stillness is initiated by attentive waiting upon God,
its intermediate stage is characterized by illuminative power and contemplation,
and its final goal is ecstasy and the enraptured flight of the intellect towards God.
  • #111, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 237.
  • For beginners prayer is like a joyous fire kindled in the heart;
for the perfect it is like a vigorous sweet-scented light.
Or again, prayer is the preaching of the Apostles,
an action of faith or, rather,
faith itself, 'that makes real for us the things for which we hope' (Heb. 11:1),
active love,
angelic impulse,
the power of the bodiless spirits,
their work and delight,
the Gospel of God,
the heart's assurance,
hope of salvation,
a sign of purity,
a token of holiness,
knowledge of God,
baptism made manifest,
purification in the water of regeneration,
a pledge of the Holy Spirit,
the exultation of Jesus,
the soul's delight,
God's mercy,
a sign of reconciliation,
the seal of Christ,
a ray of the noetic sun,
the heart's dawn-star,
the confirmation of the Christian faith,
the disclosure of reconciliation with God,
God's grace,
God's wisdom or, rather,
the origin of true and absolute Wisdom;
the revelation of God,
the work of monks,
the life of hesychasts,
the source of stillness,
and expression of the angelic state.
Why say more? Prayer is God, who accomplishes everything in everyone (cf. 1 Cor. 12:6),
for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus.
  • #113, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 237-8.
  • According to theologians, noetic, pure, angelic prayer is in its power wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit.
A sign that you have attained such prayer is that the intellect's vision when praying is completely free from form and that the intellect sees neither itself nor anything else in a material way.
On the contrary, it is often drawn away even from its own senses by the light acting within it; for it now grows immaterial and filled with spiritual radiance, becoming through ineffable union a single spirit with God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:17).
  • #116, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 239.
  • The short ladder of spiritual progress – which is at the same time both small and great – has five rungs leading to perfection.
The first is renunciation,
the second submission to a religious way of life,
the third obedience to spiritual direction,
the fourth humility,
and the fifth God-imbued love.
  • #120, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 241.
  • A divine philosopher is he who through ascetic purification and noetic contemplation has achieved a direct union with God, and is a true friend of God, in that he esteems and loves the supreme, creative and true wisdom above every other love, wisdom and knowledge.
  • #127, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 246.
The first is contemplation of the formless, unoriginate and uncreated God, source of all things – that is, contemplation of the one Triadic Deity that transcends all being.
The second is contemplation of the hierarchy and order of the spiritual powers.
The third is contemplation of the structure of created beings.
The fourth is contemplation of God's descent through the incarnation of the Logos.
The fifth is contemplation of the universal resurrection.
The sixth is contemplation of the dread second coming of Christ.
The seventh is contemplation of age-long punishment.
The eighth is contemplation of the kingdom of heaven.
The first four pertain to what has already been manifested and realized.
The second four pertain to what is in store and has not yet been manifested; but they are clearly contemplated by and disclosed to those who through grace have attained great purity of intellect.
  • #130, On Commandments and Doctrines, p. 248.
  • The energy of grace is the power of spiritual fire that fills the heart with joy and gladness, stabilizes, warms and purifies the soul, temporarily stills our provocative thoughts, and for a time suspends the body's impulsions. The signs and fruits that testify to its authenticity are tears, contrition, humility, self-control, silence, patience, self-effacement and similar qualities, all of which constitute undeniable evidence of its presence.
  • "On Divine Energy". In: On the Signs of Grace and Delusion, Written for the Confessor Longinos: Ten Texts, p. 262
  • When you sit in stillness, by day or by night, free from random thoughts and continuously praying to God in humility, you may find that your intellect becomes exhausted through calling upon God and that your body and heart begin to feel pain because of the intense concentration with which you unceasingly invoke the name of Jesus, with the result that you no longer experience the warmth and joy that engender ardour and patience in the spiritual aspirant. If this is the case, stand up and psalmodize, either by yourself or with a disciple who lives with you, or occupy yourself with meditation on some scriptural passage or with the remembrance of death, or with manual labour or with some other thing, or give your attention to reading, preferably standing up so as to involve your body in the task as well. ... With the help of prayer ignore all images, whether sensory or conceptual, that rise up from the heart. For stillness means the shedding of all thoughts for a time, even those which are divine and engendered by the Spirit; otherwise through giving them our attention because they are good we will lose what is better.
  • #9, On Stillness, p. 269-70

Quotes about Gregory of Sinai

  • ... through them [the disciples of Gregory of Sinai] their master’s writings and oral teaching spread through the monasteries and royal courts of Eastern Europe. Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania and Russia were all affected by this new cosmopolitan movement: monks, churchmen, writers and artists, travelling from country to country – ‘wandering for the sake of the Lord’, as a fourteenth-century writer put it – found themselves in a similar spiritual and cultural environment; and through this ‘Hesychast International’, whose influence extended far beyond the ecclesiastical sphere, the different parts of the Byzantine Commonwealth were, during the last hundred years of its existence, linked to each other and to its centre perhaps more closely than ever before.
    • Obolensky, D., The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe 500–1453 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971), p. 390.
      • Note: The term ‘Hesychast International’ is first attributed to A. Elian, ‘Byzance et les Roumains à la fin du Moyen Age’, Proceedings of the XIIIth International Congress of Byzantine Studies (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 199.

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